Hunger's Brides
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Novel Excerpts | Sor Juana's Poetry

"Panoayan"

Panoayan

Arriving at the new hacienda...

[ beginning on page 39, Hunger's Brides ]

I awoke just before Amanda did. A light rain tickled my face. The sun, not far above the western hills, seemed lower than we were, as if the last light rose up past us to strike the peaks far above, still radiantly lit. Quietly we watched the soft rain beat traces of silver through the sunbeams where they slanted up among the boughs.

       The trees were thinning. We were entering the town of Amecameca, less than a league from Grandfather's hacienda. María and Josefa were standing up in the lead cart, gawping shamelessly at the refinements of the largest settlement we had ever seen, and would traverse in under five minutes. Xochitl pointed out the school. "For girls like you." She looked at me with a crooked smile.

       Then we were off the main road. The track bent sharply east. A gold light poured over our shoulders and cast ahead of us the shadow of a giant with two tiny heads - for Amanda and I were standing now, behind the driver. As we clung to his backrest, Xochitl clung grimly to our skirts to keep us from pitching headlong out. Across the ditch on the left and beyond a windbreak of oaks were orchard rows of apple and peach and pomegranate converging in the distance as they ran. Workers stopped and doffed their hats as Grandfather cantered grandly past. Close to the road, one woman squinted at Xochitl and waved with a little flutter.

       I looked back. She stood there still, the sun setting red beside her through folds of road dust.

       Closer to the house were plots of squash, and beans and tomatoes. We crossed a small, stone bridge over a brook that fed the irrigation ditches. At the far end of the bridge stood a little guard post, empty now. As was the watchtower that topped the house. The house itself was framed by two tall African tulip trees, and in each orange blossom glowed the sunset's radiant echo.

       As in Nepantla, the house was laid out on one floor. Here, though, the roof was not flat but shingled and pitched to shed rain - and, Grandfather promised, sometimes snow.

       The western wall above the veranda was a pocked grey white. The watchtower and the chapel belfry still blushed the softest rose in the faltering light. Workmen in white cotton breeches and shirts took form round the carts as if exhalations risen of the dusk...

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